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Party bus and tours have new option in the city

Kevin McLaurin has brought the city of Winston-Salem a unique alternative to the traditional party bus.

Party bus and tours have new option in the city
April 21
14:22 2021

Looking for an alternative to the traditional party or tour bus? Then Hook and Ladder Party Pumper might be what you’re looking for.  

At first glance it may look like your typical fire engine. But upon further inspection, it’s the perfect vehicle to accommodate your event needs. The vehicle seats up to 10 and can be used for events.

“You grab nine of your friends because our capacity is groups of 10, so once you have your crowd, we are BYOB (Bring your own beer),” said Kevin McLaurin, owner/operator of Hook & Ladder Party Pumper. “You can bring your own beverages and we will meet at a brewery, and if you have your own playlist of music, we can stream that, or we can provide a playlist for you.

“Once we are on board, we take off and we have different routes we take in downtown Winston-Salem for an hour and a half.  As we tour, we make frequent stops at different bars and breweries, so if our patrons would like to get off to buy another drink, they can do so, or if they want to interact and mingle, they can do that also. We have music, dancing and trivia games and it’s a good time with your friends.  And what better way to party than on a fire truck.”

The idea for Hook & Ladder came to McLaurin, who is a safety training captain for the fire department, last year while on vacation. He has worked for the department for 13 years. McLaurin has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and this business venture was something he felt he had to dive into.

“I visited one of my friends down in Miami, Florida, last year around the time of the Super Bowl and we were able to get on a party bus and this big fire truck showed up and I said ‘this is unique,’” said McLaurin about how he came up with the idea. “We had a great time and I exchanged information with the owner of that company and I felt like it would be a good idea to transplant that same business model here in Winston-Salem.

Upon returning from his trip, McLaurin immediately began his search for a fire truck to begin the business. Within six months, he was able to locate a truck and have it renovated for tours.

McLaurin came up with the name Hook & Ladder by referencing one of the first all-Black fire brigades in the city of Winston-Salem.

“A little known fact is that one of the first all-Black fire brigades was the Hook & Ladder fire company and we had the Columbia Heights Fire Company also, so with the historical context behind that, I kind of played off of the historical relevancy,” he said. “And me being a Black firefighter, I thought it would be cool to say Hook & Ladder and have that theme keep going.”

So far, McLaurin has received very positive feedback from his customers, especially with how unique the idea is.

“They love the atmosphere and I think the biggest compliment we had was how cordial, nice and safe they felt and just being the center of attention,” he said about some of the customer feedback. “Just downtown and riding around with people on the sidewalk talking to the people on the truck.”

McLaurin stated that a by-product of the truck is that more business is being funneled to downtown as a result of the tours.  

“We are able to bring business to more local establishments downtown, because we are able to introduce our clients to bars and breweries that they have never visited before and hopefully that establishment can maintain that,” he said.

McLaurin would like to add more trucks to their fleet soon, as well as expand their business model. He stated Hook & Ladder also does birthday pull-ups for kids. He also has a goal of expanding to the Charlotte market to take advantage of their booming population as well.

McLaurin said he brought on another firefighter, Pat Davidson, to work alongside him as the operations manager in the business.  

“He is a good guy with bar experience and an outgoing personality,” he said about Davidson. “I had to bring him on to have that extra set of eyes to bounce ideas off of and to help me run the show and make sure I am dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.”

For more information about Hook & Ladder Party Pumper, please visit www.hookandladder.club, or social media (Instagram and Facebook) at Hook and Ladder Party Pumper, and also via email at hookladdernc@nullgmail.com.

McLaurin wanted to thank Asst. City Manager, Damon Dequenne for his assistance in his business venture, the city- county public safety committee, and Jason Thiel of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership. McLaurin stated that Hook & Ladder does not have any affiliation with the Winston-Salem Fire Department.

“I definitely wanted to give thanks to those that have helped me along the way,” he stated. “I am really excited to bring a unique experience to downtown Winston-Salem, because we have so much potential and I am just excited to contribute and be a part of the bigger picture.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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